The Hopi Native Americans live in the Southwestern United States of America. In their religious ceremonies, masked dancers impersonate the deities. They dance and perform their rituals to ensure the well being of their people.
Kachinas are symbolic representations, in human form, of the spirits of plants, animals, places and ancestors. A Kachina impersonator is believed to receive the spirit of the Kachina he portrays when he wears its mask.
When the Kachina dances are held, it is believed that the prayers of the people are conveyed by the Kachinas to the gods. The Kachina dances are held to bring clouds and rain for the spring crops. They also promote harmony in the universe, and ensure health, long life and happiness for the people.
Every spring, the male members of the tribe impersonate the Kachinas by wearing elaborate costumes and masks when they perform the Kachina dances and ceremonies. Small cottonwood dolls carved, painted and dressed like the dancers are given to the children. These Kachina dolls are used to teach the children about the hundreds of Kachina spirits.
One of the most well known of the Kachina dolls and masks depict the Sun God, Tawa. Tawa is thought of as the Giver of Life. He travels the sky each day and visits the God of the Sky who sends clouds and rain to make the plants grow. In the evening, he visits the Mother of the Universe whose home is located in the western ocean. She is considered the creator of the world and owns the stars and the moon.
The Hopis make a morning prayer and an offering of cornmeal to the rising sun each day. Newborn children are "presented" to the sun on the eighth day. Tawa is especially honored at the winter solstice ceremony to bring him back from his northward journey.
The Kachina Sun Mask is painted in the traditional colors of red, yellow and turquoise blue. It is surrounded by eagle feathers, which represent the sunþs rays. Sunrise is broken down into several phases: beginning with white dawn; yellow dawn- the sunþs forehead; and full sunrise.
Bahti, Tom. Southwestern Indian Ceremonials. © 1970 by KC Publications. Eighth printing 1992. Revised by Mark Bahti, 1982. Tucson, AZ
Bahti, Mark Tomas. Southwest Indian Designs. © 1994 by Mark Bahti. Treasure Chest Publications, Inc. Tucson, AZ
Greenlee, Donna. Kachina Doll Coloring Book. © 1972 by Donna Greenlee. Fun Publishing Co. Scottsdale, AZ
Infoplease.com The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia and Dictionary © 2000 Columbia University Press.
Naha, Henry. Hopi Sun Kachina.